Lejla Kucukalic

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

May 2011

After taking Prof. Kucukalic's Science Fiction course I gained a new insight into several of the works she features. I will admit that I took her course in the beginning thinking "Hey, its Science Fiction, how hard can it be?" I soon found out after the first few quizzes when the only science fiction related thing I could think of was "Scotty, beam me up!" Realizing I was in trouble I met with her and she was able to get back on the right track and despite my earlier flops I was able to pull it up and got out with an A-. In my opinion the secret to her class was participation, doing the readings and understanding that the devil is truly in the details, her details. What she points out in class and in reviewing the readings is all you need to be concerned about. With the papers you get a little leeway to bring some of your own views into play but you better make sure you've said everything she wants you to say beforehand. I understand her conducting the class this way in that so many like myself took it thinking it was an easy course and once you identify her way of teaching it’s not too bad. She wanted every student in the class to succeed and always stayed after class to answer every question as well. I actually admired her restraint at some points when someone was texting or online that she simply asked them to stop and listen. Some students may have complained but you don't throw electronic rocks at somebody who is used to sniper fire! A Professor with that much patience left after surviving a war zone and to be where she is today, that's somebody worth listening to for an hour and fifteen in my book.

Apr 2011

She frequently made flimsy connections between works, made up a lot of ideas that were very, very loosely connected to the material being presented, and has a mediocre (if not novice) understanding of the subject matter of science fiction. She's fairly well versed in the older written works, but when it comes to the real development of sci-fi and a lot of the modern works to come out (in film and literature) she was constantly corrected by students and came across as completely ignorant. She hates television, despite there being just as much (if not more...) legitimate work done in the recent years of science fiction television -- despite this, she'll slander television and scoff at whatever she doesn't like (including handfuls of recent science fiction films that stand so far beyond shallow and simple movies like "Resident Evil," "The Matrix," and "The Minority Report" -- on that track, it's almost a joke she taught "Aeon Flux" -- a horrible animated series with terrible writing and little to offer, while there are literally dozens and dozens of other examples that are more perfectly executed). She has a very weak appreciation of the genre as a whole and thus is really in no position to be lecturing about it. Her tone was often demeaning or sarcastic when students disagreed with her or presented her with information she was lacking (she often behaves like a petulant child), and she frequently had a weak understanding or remembrance of even the works that were being taught. Also, her general lack of understanding in the field of science itself makes it difficult for her to lecture about a creative subject that hinges on having a legitimate understanding of the scientific processes described -- that is, if you actually focus on the most profound and most acutely written science fiction literature rather than mostly pulp and "science" fiction allegories. The only thing that could really improve this course would be a different professor who actually takes science fiction more seriously and looks at more of the defining and profound works of the genre. The overall commentary and discourse with other subjects found in novels by Dan Simmons, Orson Scott-Card, and Frank Herbert far outweigh almost all of the novels in this course put together. Most of the books in this course are mostly focused on small allegorical messages and don't present much more material than that. However, I could see how students who really don't actually care about science fiction would have an easier time with some of them, but since when do real literature classes try to make things easy for the students? The fact that this is an 120-person lecture shows what a non-serious course this is. People take it for fun, not to really learn much of anything -- it could be doing both, but for me (and others in the class, I know) it did neither. Also, take out the films completely. They mostly distracted the course, led her to making a lot of loose and pointless connections, and really derailed the class a lot in her attempts to put depth into these silly films that wasn't actually there. Towards the end of the semester I mostly stopped engaging with the material -- I'm a college student, I've seen "The Matrix," "The Minority Report" and "Resident Evil" each over a dozen times, and "A.I." several. Almost everyone in the class had probably seen all of them once, and most people had probably seen "Clockwork Orange" and "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Jan 2011

I generally agree with the below reviews. Prof Kucukalic is a very interesting teacher with a fascinating life story. The discussion was very unstructured and student run but generally good. However, perhaps because she motivated her students to work hard and they all do generally well she is a very strict grader. She curved my midterm down from A- to A range to a B+ and gave me a grade at the very low end of those which I had received over the course of the semester. If you really want a good grade you have to go well beyond simply doing all of the readings, doing a pretty good job on the essays and studying for the tests.

Dec 2010

Lejla Kucukalic is seriously one of the most amazing professors I'll probably ever have. She used to be an olympic swimmer for the Yugoslav Republic until the Balkan Wars started. Then, she was under siege and in hiding in Sarajevo for a year, before being smuggled out of Bosnia by journalists and finishing a PhD in science fiction in the US. Now she teaches science fiction here, and she also teaches lit hum. She's funny and entertaining, insightful, powerful, commanding, tall (6 1, i think?), good looking, and basically every good adjective you could think of for a professor. Her venerable womanliness even gives Moody-Adams, that profound and veritable student of the world, a run for her money. She also cares a lot about her kids--she once pulled me aside to ask why my comments in class weren't as interesting and insightful as they were before. She'll take the time to meet with you, to take the class out to some bomb-ass plays, and she'll ask great questions. Also, she sometimes talks about war and about how similar the Iliad, Odyssey, Histories, and Thucydides are to the war she experienced, which can be a very humbling and shaking experience. LEJLA. IS. DA. BOMB. TAKE. HER. CLASS. WHAT. AN. AMAZING. WOMAN. deepest respect for her. for real

Sep 2009

I took Professor's Kucukalic's class, 'New Literary Histories', and it was one of the best decisions I've made in my college career. She incorporated epistemology, history, and literature into the approach we took to the texts and provided fascinating supplementary material (from artwork to scientific case studies) which enabled the student to get the most they could out of each book. Kucukalic was also able to bring archaic ideas or novels from a different era into a contemporary context, often drawing from her own life experience; ergo, complex ideas and texts were made more accessible. She is consistent, well prepared, and brings humor to the classroom, making it all the more enjoyable. One finishes the semester not just with better analytical skills, as a reader, but with a richer outlook on many matters that extend beyond the classroom. I began the course as a History major and left wanting to switch to English Literature.

Dec 2008

I generally dislike lecture classes. No matter how interesting the professor or the subject, I just can't sit passively and listen to someone talk for an hour and fifteen minutes twice a week without wishing that someone would shoot me or the professor. Even though there were 100+ people registered, the course description for Science Fiction sounded interesting, so I thought I would give the class a try. I'm glad I did. Professor Kucukalic is a great teacher. She makes a concerted effort to get everyone involved with the material both in class and through online discussion. She made full use of the smart classroom by including online material, images, video, as well as traditional powerpoint slides. It was a survey of SF, so we never delved into any one movement or author too deeply, but Professor Kucukalic never skimmed over anything either. Occasionally the in-class discussion would roam a little far afield, but generally she kept it within reason. The syllabus was clear and well thought out and there was a wide range of course material to satisfy a variety of tastes. I didn't love every story or book that we read, but every single one was relevant and interesting. There was a fair amount of reading, but it was structured in such a way that we always had time. Outside of class, Professor Kucukalic was extremely friendly and approachable. She was always willing to accommodate student's schedules in order to give them the help they needed. She is a fair grader, but she can be tough. She doesn't tolerate anything late, but if you get a friendly TA there's always wiggle room. Whether you're a SF buff or not (I wasn't), I highly recommend this class.

May 2008

I had Prof. Kucukalic for her first semester teaching, and while the class was tolerable, it wasn't great. She conducts classes well, and manages to stay focused on the text instead of letting students ramble about personal experiences. However, I sometimes got the feeling that she was missing the larger point, especially when she would spend a lot of time discussing minor characters and not touch upon major themes or questions raised by the material until the very end of class, and even then, she might cover them inadequately. Her paper topics are standard Lit-hum fare without originality (e.g. role of women, what makes a good man, etc...), and her grading is (for the most part) fair. On a personal level, she's really nice and will arrange to meet you if office hours don't work. Overall: Not worth transferring into, but then again, not worth transferring out of.